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BMW Bails on Tokyo Motor Show; Will Others Follow?

Might organizers yet cancel the troubled event?

by on Mar.24, 2009

Will BMW abandon Tokyo for China?  It used the Shanghai Motor Show to unveil its CS Concept in 2007.

Will BMW abandon Tokyo for China? It used the Shanghai Motor Show to unveil its '07 CS Concept.

BMW has become the latest automaker to abandon the fast-fading Tokyo Motor Show, raising further questions about the future of the once-critical biennial event.

The German maker’s decision to abandon the show, once one of the four major global events it considered a must, was confirmed for by communications executive Jan Ehlan.

Rumors had begun to circulate, in recent days, that the Bavarian marque would walk away from the show, which has steadily lost its gloss, in recent years.  There are several reasons behind the decline: first, and perhaps foremost, foreign makers have largely given up trying to penetrate the traditionally xenophobic Japanese market, where foreign brands have never achieved a collective quarter of all total new vehicle sales, despite years of trying.  In BMW’s case, sources suggested, the automaker has seen its modest share slip, lately, in favor of its German rival, Audi.

The Tokyo show’s organizers have seldom hidden their tendency to play favorites, often putting foreign brands in bad locations or setting them up their news conferences for undesirable timeslots.  Yet even the smallest display can cost millions of dollars, a serious consideration in good times and a sheer disaster in the current economy.  The Japanese car market has mirrored the slumping U.S., with sales now at their lowest levels since the mid-1970s, and there are few prospects of any serious recovery for years to come. (more…)